Answering and virtual receptionist services have a lot of similarities—almost to the point where many people tend to think they’re exactly the same thing and use these terms interchangeably. Although they’re very close in nature, there are a few subtle differences between the two services that could make a big difference depending on which one you choose to go with for your business. Alternatively, you could also choose a hybrid service that combines both answering and virtual receptionist services if that’s what you prefer. Both answering and virtual receptionist services are fairly customizable and adaptable to the needs of your business.
The best way to choose which one is right for you is to examine the specific needs of your business operations and then weigh the pros and cons of phone answering services vs. hiring a live receptionist service.
What Is a Phone Answering Service?
A phone answering service is exactly what it sounds like. Answering service businesses offer additional support to small and large enterprises that have unmanageably high call volumes. Professional phone answering services provide custom-tailored services that help you move through your call que more quickly and efficiently. The idea is to minimize the number of dropped and missed calls, so that you never miss out on an opportunity to strengthen existing customer relationships and acquire new ones at the same time.
As you may have surmised, the goal of hiring professional phone answering services is to boost customer retention and acquisition by providing prompt and high-quality customer service at every turn. Phone answering services do the following:
- Answer phone calls
- Take messages
- Direct calls to the appropriate department
- Provide voicemail services
- Process orders and transactions
- Provide customer account information through an extensive verification process
- Handle customer complaints and deescalate tense situations
Basically, they handle all of the customer support tasks that you and your core team don’t have time for anymore.
What Are Virtual Receptionist Services?
A live virtual receptionist service goes above and beyond simply answering phones. They essentially have the same duties as an in-office full-time receptionist would, except they work remotely and cost less.
In addition to answering phones, taking messages, and performing all of the abovementioned duties a phone answering service does, virtual receptionists are trained specifically in everything that has to do with your business including your industry, your brand, your products, and the services you offer to your customers. Phone answering services, on the other hand, are essentially call centres that may have basic knowledge about your brand, enough to serve your customers. But virtual receptionists have a more in-depth knowledge and can assist your customers or clients on a much higher level.
What’s the Difference between Phone Answering and Live Virtual Receptionist Services?
As mentioned, there are a few subtle differences between professional phone answering and virtual receptionist services. Phone answering services provide basic customer support with the objective of streamlining high call volumes and making sure every call is answered promptly to reduce the number of dropped calls and disgruntled customers.
Live receptionists take it a step further by answering and making phone calls and performing all of the same duties that an in-house receptionist would do. Here are some of the key differences between the two so that you can decide whether you need answering services, a virtual receptionist, or a combination of both.
Phone answering services typically operate in a call center. Since their core objective is to handle customer inquiries, complaints, and product orders, they’re usually only capable of and responsible for answering phone calls, updating customer information in CRM, and troubleshooting minor issues. While there are some instances in which they may be required to get in contact with a customer that they’ve been dealing with for a while, for the most part, they’re solely responsible for handling inbound phone calls.
Live virtual receptionists, on the other hand, are capable of handling both inbound and outbound phone calls on a regular basis. Part of their responsibility as your receptionist involves providing in-depth customer support and making phone calls to your colleagues, business associates, and other professionals in your field on your behalf to set up and confirm meetings and appointments or acquire important information on your behalf.
Connectivity to the Business
As direct representatives of your business, virtual receptionists are expected to have more in-depth knowledge regarding your products and services than customer support agents. They are essentially a direct line to your business and are authorized to act as your right-hand person.
Unlike customer support agents that work for a third-party phone answering service in a remote call center, live virtual receptionists have a direct connection to your core team. A typical virtual receptionist job description includes acting as a liaison between various departments in your business and often providing necessary support to your team leads. Small businesses can often get away with having just one virtual receptionist. But as your business continues to grow, you may find that it makes more sense to hire a virtual receptionist for each new department or location.
How to Choose the Right Service for Your Business
Both phone answering and virtual receptionist services have their own merits. Choosing the right service can make a world of difference in terms of boosting your operations and maximizing customer service efficiency and quality.
To decide whether you need one or both of the services, start by analyzing the current and projected needs of your business. Where do your current operations stand at the moment? Where do you see them going in the next few months or a year from now? Growth is the obvious objective for every business, so it’s important to have a future vision of where you want to be in any given amount of time.
If your top priority for the time being is to simply manage a high call volume and reduce the number of dropped or missed calls, then phone answering services will suffice. But if you need additional support with handling daily business operations and back-end tasks, then you might want to consider virtual receptionist services for small businesses.
Lucky for you, 3C Contact Services does both. We have a professional team of call centre agents that are fully capable of handling your high call volumes for you and we also cater to small businesses that need a little extra help with their back-end operations, transaction processing, and so much more. Contact us to learn more.